Thursday, January 04, 2018

The Headlines Tell The Tale: New Mexico Has A Social Conditions Crisis And More, Plus: Working For The Minimum And A Great Opportunity For Higher Ed Is Lost  

As a longtime journalist and blogger having seen the worst of the worst, you expect to view things through a darker lens. But even after acknowledging that bent the headlines dominating New Mexico in this new year are truly ghastly and remind us that a failed state does not turn with the page of the calendar.

We've long been calling the state's plight a social conditions crisis but that seems too innocuous. It's a crisis alright, but one with a sinister shadow. Take a look. From Cruces:

From 2016 to 2017, child abuse cases increased from 97 to 135 reported cases in Doña Ana County, a 39% increase. District Attorney D'Antonio says his office has seen more and more children found with meth in their systems.

From the streets of ABQ:

A woman whose mutilated (and decapitated) body was found in a sandy arroyo in the shadow of the upper middle class Four Hills neighborhood grew up in To’hajiilee and more recently split her time between the Native American reservation land and Albuquerque. . . Audra Willis, 39, did not have a permanent residence. . .She was the mother of six children, all under the age of 17, who lived in To’hajiilee.

From the NM Dept. of Health:

The struggle with drug overdose. . . looks better in comparison with the national picture but in essence, the numbers here remain relatively unchanged. It’s the rest of the nation that has taken a turn for the much worse . . . The state leads the nation in alcohol-related death rates, according to the department. 

From Belen where an 11 month old baby died while in foster care:

Police also reportedly found poor conditions in the home, including dog feces and urine along with foul odors. Other unkempt conditions included human feces in a dirty and discolored toilet, empty bags and bottles in one room, scattered food bowls, and pills under a bed, according to the report.

One of the definitions of a crisis is "a time when an important or difficult decision must be made." New Mexico has put off that difficult decision and the consequences are as black and white as the dreary headlines that bring them to us ceaselessly.


Getting a raise in '18? If you're at the bottom of the economic ladder in ABQ you will. Minimum wage workers will see their hourly pay boosted from $8.80 to $8.95 an hour. But you're out of luck if you're a low wage worker outside of ABQ, Santa Fe or Cruces, cities where the minimum wage has long surpassed the state's measly minimum of $7.50 an hour. That rate has been struck there since the last raise was approved in 2008--10 years ago.

The federal minimum wage has been an even rawer deal, staying at $7.25 an hour since 2009.

States and cities long ago began setting their own minimums. But in the rural areas of New Mexico there are folks still getting paid to harvest chile or work on ranches for $7.50 an hour. Can the legislature, dominated by well-off professionals, and the Governor finally come to an agreement to give them a raise when they meet later this month?

They could if they would walk a mile in the shoes of those hard-working, but wage-deprived New Mexicans out there in the hinterland.


The hodgepodge collection of state higher education institutions, rooted in the politics of a century ago when everyone wanted a piece of the pie, has, most everyone agrees, created a dysfunctional patchwork that cries out for reform. But the wailing is destined to continue.

NM Higher Ed Secretary Barbara Damron suffered a stunning rebuke when a committee formed to reform the system recommended doing nothing--absolutely nothing:

Sec. Damron (Journal; Thompson)
A committee convened by the state Higher Education Department to study potential changes to university and college governance in New Mexico is recommending no changes to the current model – one that features 21 governing boards overseeing 31 public institutions. . . More than half of the 19 governance subcommittee members came from the institutions themselves, including several presidents..

Secretary Damron wrote this sad ending in allowing those benefiting from the status quo to undertake the study. It's a lost opportunity and particularly regrettable because the solution is in plain sight:

. . . The other model would create a University of New Mexico-headed system with all the state’s northern schools, and a southern system headed by New Mexico State University. But Damron said grouping institutions with such different missions made those less attractive.

Uh, maybe redefine those missions for the 21st century and get on with the consolidation?

Regionalism and parochialism won the day when the politicians of yesteryear assembled the system that has led to the absurdity of 21 governing boards overseeing 31 public institutions. Today a higher education lobby conspires with the politicians to keep the horse and buggy era going.

The solution? Only a strong governor (and a couple of equally strong legislators) willing to take a political hit will deliver the state from the indecipherable jigsaw puzzle that is the New Mexico higher education bureaucracy.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Our First 2018 Edition Of Vox Populi; Readers Write Of Dem Guv Chances, APD Staffing, Animal Welfare And Too Much Money Grubbing By Candidates  

Why wait for a good thing? It's the first edition of the new year of Vox Populi where the readers take over the blog.

There are only a few rules--you have to be pretty smart to make it on. Otherwise, what's the point? Also, only limited profanity is allowed. Here we go. . .

Reader Tom Miles comments on the conventional political wisdom that 2018 could be a 'no-brainer" when it comes to the Dems taking the governorship:

I hope the Dems do not take this election as a no-brainer, even if it may be, almost. The Dems simply have to sharpen their electoral ground and messaging games to the max because lazy-ass running in the past has led to lazy-ass governing in the now.

Lazy-ass running allows the party to “Party” as opposed to rigorously examining and formulating plans and actions that will actually work and produce desirable results for our state and its citizens, e.g., no more RailRunner fantasies. And, this leads to …

Lazy-ass governing which allows the “Party” to move to the Fourth Floor in Santa Fe and play at the serious business of governance while our state continues to grow its reputation as the most poverty stricken in the union and a retirement haven for a variety of criminals.


Reader and retired APD Seargent Dan Klein comments on reader Bruce Shah's concern that a big increase in the hiring of federal border agents will hamper recruiting efforts for the understaffed ABQ police department:

Comparing Border Patrol hiring with APD is comparing apples to oranges. The Feds may offer some better benefits (APD / PERA is still better at 25 years and retired at any age) but the bigger difference is the job. 

When the Border Patrol tried to increase their numbers 10 years ago they had trouble hiring because who wants to live in New Mexico’s boot heel? Or in the Big Bend country of Texas? Or the Tohono Reservation in Arizona? And there is the difference. It is easier to recruit for a job in a metro area than in a remote part of the country. So I don’t think we have to worry about Border Patrol recruiting or taking officers. 


Mayor Keller is being subjected to furious lobbying over his pick to head the ABQ Animal Welfare Department, with over 3,100 persons signing an online petition asking the Mayor to look outside the department for a new leader. This reader is one of them:

We haven’t heard a thing about who the Mayor is planning on appointing as AWD director. We hold out hope he is listening. In the meantime, we have requested a meeting with Mayor Keller asking him to please do a nationwide search for a director. Joel Craig and Jim Ludwick would like the position but are toxic and bitter about the progress we have made to be a “no kill” shelter. Both Ludwick and Craig did not score high enough to be considered for the position of Associate Director in 2016. That hardly qualifies them for director. Certainly it would be an embarrassment for this administration to lose our city’s no kill status after we have been able to hold it for the past two years.

We don't have a dog in this fight, so to speak, but have been pulled in by the passionate arguments on both sides and published both. We're sure there's more to come.


Former Dem Lt. Governor Diane Denish writes on Facebook of the relentless push for money by state political candidates during the Xmas season:

. . . As someone who has been a candidate who had to raise money constantly, I was still struck by the number of political solicitations I received. Everyone was facing a critical deadline! Everyone had just a few more bucks to go to make their goal! Everyone was going to be the most anti-Trump person ever elected!. . . Very few, if any, talked about what they needed to do to be a part of a winning agenda for Democrats. 

No one encouraged giving to your local charity to feed the homeless, house the infirm, fight a disease. My hope in 2018 is that these candidates will try and persuade me and others to contribute to them with concrete policy ideas that will improve the lives of New Mexicans or just stop it! 

Not every Trump tweet is breaking news. Not every deadline is the most urgent, Every opponent is not a monster, and no, I am not giving you money if you don't have an opponent (other candidates will need it more).


Here's longtime reader Michael Corwin with a self-described "shameless plug":

It saddens me to read in your column that people are becoming shut-ins as a result of our crime problem. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, not to hunker down in fear. 

I started Personal Safety Education, LLC, along with two close friends, to provide the tools that people need to live and enjoy life safely. We provide fun and easy to apply training in situational awareness, de-escalation techniques and self-defense basics to businesses, religious institutions, families, and individuals, at their locations. 


More information came in and we adjusted the Jeff Apodaca holiday TV buy on broadcast stations upwards from around $13,000 to $19,000. He also spent $13K on cable. . . The link we had up wishing good riddance to 2017 was broken. Here it is.

And the first name of former GOP lieutenant governor candidate Kellie Zuni came out as "Keller" Tuesday. Well, she might have been better off with that moniker considering the name of the new ABQ mayor.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Aging Crime Wave Makes ABQ Voter Patience An '18 Test For City Hall, Plus: Pushback On Apo TV, And: Who Wants It? Still No Big Names For GOP Light Guv  

You might have seen this sarcastic rib tickler that's been making the rounds on social media. It aptly sums up what denizens of the Duke City had to deal with in 2017. Will 2018 be much different?

Patience will be at a premium for the new leadership team at City Hall. The crime wave is now years-old. With memes like the one posted here making the rounds, ABQ's reputation has grown increasingly tarnished around the nation.

Closer to home it is common to hear folks report on how they do not go out at night and how for the first time in many years of living here, they fear for their safety as well as the security of their property.

Over the weekend new Mayor Keller enjoyed the traditional honeymoon newspaper interview, exploring his personality and private life. In normal times the fluff would be of much interest and appeal. But curiosity about the personalities of local politicians is low. It is results people hunger for.

Keller has a 62 percent win to cushion him going forward. One senses that he is going to need all of that and more as he grapples with a a crime wave that now belongs to him.


Reader Bruce Shah focuses on the challenge before Keller as he tries to recruit police for the understaffed APD:

Joe, the NYT reports: "New Homeland Security chief will oversee the hiring of 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents."

This has always been the elephant in the room. No one addressed this during the election. I can't see Albuquerque competing with the feds on either salary or benefits. Something for you to look at perhaps?

Well, Bruce, along with many others, we are looking at it.

It's too early to talk about raising taxes. With a projected $40 million deficit facing the city for the budget year starting July 1, first spending cuts have to be on the table.

And to risk the wrath of the BioPark fans, what about that $17 million a year for each of the next 14 years going there from a 2016 voter-approved gross receipts tax increase?

Can we get creative in this time of a public safety crisis? Can't some of the BioPark general operating budget be shifted to public safety? Isn't that just one of the hard questions that needs to be asked?


Jeff Apodaca caused a little holiday splash when he went up on the air with a 60 second bio TV spot as he fights to overcome Dem Guv front-runner Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The campaign only bought about $19,000 in broadcast time over that period. And get this--$5,000 of it was for just one spot on the KOB-TV NFL game of Dec. 23, says media maven Chris Brown who is monitoring the buys from Santa Fe. He adds that Apodaca bought about $13,000 on cable including CNN and MSNBC for ads that run through January 7.

The spot is also is getting social media hits and garnered some needed publicity for Apodaca.

As for the content of the ad, readers offered push back. An email from a dlwencewicz said:

Reference the Apodaca ad about career politicians vs. being an innovator and businessman. Wee have a so-called “businessman” in the White House now. How’s that working for you? Politics is the art of compromise (unless you’re a modern day conservative) while business requires a dictator. I prefer compromise.

Longtime reader Mick opined that Apodaca is incorrectly characterizing the $16 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) as a "rainy day fund." Apodaca proposes to invest $1 billion from the $23 billion in state permanent funds to stimulate the economy:

"Rainy Day fund?" Incorrect. And what sort of jobs would Jeff try to bring in? And how long would it take to get it done while the economy inches upward on its own? Sam Donaldson (who narrated the ad) should have known better than to trust the copy writers to get the facts straight. He could have at least put "rainy day" in some sort of verbal parentheses so that the recipients of the message would know that the term is not legitimate, only a term used by those seeking to raid the permanent funds of New Mexico. Am I beating the same drum? You bet. 

Th LGPF is an endowment fund set up at the time of statehood to benefit a variety of educational institutions. A "rainy day" fund is a fund set up to provide for general government spending when revenues decline.


The GOP race for lieutenant governor is not yet drawing the big names. The latest entrant:

Mark Yule worked as a Union Steward in Taos for many years after becoming the region’s first mail carrier when he moved there in the 1980s. He says his priority as lieutenant governor would be improving government efficiency and flexibility. 

Former independent turned Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes has also announced her candidacy. Kellie Zunie had to drop out of the lt. guv race because of financial issues uncovered after she announced. Zunie was the apparent fave of presumed GOP Guv nominee Steve Pearce.

The southern NM congressman continues to fight the perception that '18 is a no-brainer Guv year for the Dems. The lack of big GOP names wanting to team with him is giving support to that argument.


Do you think 2017 was a lousy year for New Mexico? You have some company as you yell: "Good Riddance!"

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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